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Celebrating the ‘faithful witness’ of those with disabilities

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Catholics with intellectual and developmental disabilities served as readers, gift bearers and altar servers during Sunday evening Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington Oct. 8. Their acts of service at the Disabilities Awareness Mass, much like the Mass itself, were an opportunity to see those with disabilities as brothers and sisters in Christ.

“(We assure) all those with disabilities of our prayers,” said Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, celebrant and homilist, “and of our thanks for the faithful witness they offer each day, showing us to celebrate life in the midst of crosses and blessings and how to walk through life, uniting ourselves through Christ, journeying through life with patience and courage and perseverance.

“I know we join together (with people with disabilities) to thank your families and friends and all who try to assist and support you every day because of their great love for you,” he said. Bishop Emeritus Paul S. Loverde and Father Christopher P. Christensen, parochial vicar of the cathedral, concelebrated the Mass.

Jenny McIntyre and her family, cathedral parishioners, attended the Mass to celebrate those with disabilities. “It's important that we love all people as God's children,” she said. 

Many students and alumni of the Options program at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax attended the Mass. Members of the school’s women’s choir, including a current Options student, sang for the Mass. Paul VI was one of the first Catholic schools in the country to have an inclusive education program. Similar programs have since opened at four other diocesan schools. 

Trish Adams, director of Options, is new to the program. Her own children were peer mentors to Options students, “so I (already) had fondness within my own house for it,” she said. “I thought, ‘That’s what I want to be involved in.’ ”

Greg Hoppe, an altar server, graduated from the Paul VI Options program in 2009. He now works at a cafeteria on the George Mason University campus in Fairfax. “I wipe tables and sweep,” he said.

“Sweeping’s his favorite,” added his mom, Karen. He also stays busy performing in plays, including 11 musicals at Paul VI from his time there as a student and as a guest alumni performer.


For the Hoppes and others in the community, the Mass is a wonderful chance to see friends, said Karen. “It’s putting the relationships in the context of the Mass,” she said. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017